If you had to think about some of the biggest expenses a family may have, it would be those associated with infants. Okay, maybe teenagers drain the pocketbook dry, but at least you can make them get a job! So far I haven’t a clue how to duplicate disposable diapers (although I can tell you cloth diapers are making a comeback and there are websites that sell them…check out www.cottonbabies.com). However, in ranking, baby food has to be right up there with diapers.
Once those little darlings are past the rice flakes and starting to eat pureed food out of a jar, the family can do quite a bit to trim those grocery dollars. You’re going to spend anywhere from 25 cents to 35 cents an ounce for baby food in a jar. Wouldn’t you rather have that money in your pocket rather than giving it to Beechnut or Gerber?
The first thing you need to do is cruise the grocery store aisles and look at the foods available for the different stages of the growing baby. You’ll see that squash and onion casserole is not on the list for Stage One foods! You’ll keep the first food your baby eats pretty simple—carrots, green beans, squash, apples, pears and the like. As they get older, you’ll experiment with a wider selection of vegetables and add meat to the mix.
You can prepare your baby’s food one of two ways: you can cook and puree it each meal, or you can have prepared vegetables, fruits and meats in jars and puree them at feeding time. The USDA does not recommend canning pureed food and processing times have not been established for this. However, that part is the least labor-intensive and only takes seconds to do, so that’s not an issue.
If you choose to can the vegetables, meats, and fruits beforehand, you’ll want to choose size-appropriate jars. Since you will have to empty the jar to puree the food, feeding baby straight from the jar shouldn’t be a concern. Always remember to scoop what he will eat into a bowl and feed from that. In that way you can save the unused portions in the refrigerator for a day or two. If you feed the baby out of the jar, saliva contaminates the uneaten contents and those portions have to be tossed immediately.
Kerr makes a 4-ounce jar for processing foods in. This is the perfect size for baby. Cut up your vegetables and fruits and process them in the pressure canner for the same amount of time you would pints. When you’re ready to feed them to your baby, simply pop a cap and mash them up or put them in a blender and puree. Any unused portions can be stored for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
When you begin to add meat to your child’s diet, you can do it the same way. Cut up chicken or beef into small pieces, precook by boiling until it is about 2/3 of the way done, then pack jars with the hot meat and broth. Process for the same amount of time you would pints. When you’re ready to feed your child, simply pop the cap, puree the amount you want, and store the unused portion in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Remember, any uneaten food that has been in your child’s bowl and in contact with his saliva should be thrown away to prevent food-borne illnesses. Always follow the strictest of sanitary procedures when preserving and processing his food, as well.
Once your child gets older and moves up to the larger size jars of baby food, you can buy ½ pint jars to can in. By doing this you’re not only saving money, you’re insuring that your child has the freshest food possible, with the least amount of additives and chemicals. If you’re preserving your garden bounty, it’s even better.
Keep in mind that people fed their children for centuries before modern industry came along. The human race survived before Gerber and Beechnut. By providing your child with fresh foods that come from your stores, you’re insuring that if and when hard times roll around, you’ll not only be ready, but your children and family will remain well-fed.
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